The Writer’s Closet


Every writer has a closet. It’s a special place we tend to mentally travel to, drawing upon inspiration and ideas. For some of us, the ambience, of our closets, dictate what is translated into our writing voices.

I know of a very talented writer whose closet is a very dark place. He described it to me this way: He sees himself seated naked and sweaty at a splintery wooden table, surrounded by a dense fog. One ankle is shackled to the rickety old chair he’s sitting on; rough splinters cutting into his buttocks. His left wrist is shackled to one of the legs of the ancient, table. The chains and cuffs are heavy and rusted from years of wear and tear. The restraints squeeze his extremities uncomfortably. The dark room is musty, lit by a single candle floating in the fog, in a corner four yards away. His right hand scribbles feverishly across endless sheets of loose leaf paper that constantly materialize as one sheet is completed. Sheets of paper litter the dirt floor beneath his feet. Like the table and chair, his pencil is really nothing more than a splintered piece of bark; the tip sharpened to a deadly point and dipped in an endless quill of black ink. When his mind travels here, to this secret place, he knows the time has come to write. As you can probably guess, his stories and poems tell of heart-wrenching sorrow, painful memories and terror beyond the imagination.

I think…we have to recognize who we are, and what we are called to do, as writers, before our closets can truly bring out the best of our stories. For me, my closet hasn’t changed much over the years; it was always abstract. Up until recently, it looked somewhat like this:

I saw myself emerging from total darkness onto a white-sand beach. The grains of sand illuminated a space about 100 feet long by 30 feet wide, shaped like an elongated volleyball pit. I stepped up to the edge of the pit, where a golden line appeared before my leather-clad feet.

Standing before the line, I was clad in matte, white leather armor, feet to neck. Thick soled boots and heavily padded gloves; tight-fitting pants; a bulky leather belt with an oversized buckle; and a leather flak jacket, heavily padded in the chest, over a tightly fit full leather shirt, made up the bulk of my ensemble. Over the vest and shirt, I wore a weighty layer of chain mail, that draped across my shoulders and hung loose just below my waist. The seams of a thick leather cape had been attached to the back of both shoulders; its flared train hung loose below my calves. Over my head, I wore a white, stainless steel helmet, buff polished to a mirror finish. Faceless and formless, it’s only discernable feature was a chain-link tassel hanging from the crown of the helmet.

I carried a broad shield over my right arm. It was polished to a mirror finish with the inscription of four words across its exterior face: Disciple, Faith, Love and Trust. In my left hand, I wielded a magnificent short sword. Its ornate hilt was crafted with precious stones, and fit my small hand perfectly. Its cross guard was simple and polished. Its doubled-edged blade was razor sharp and seemed to hum with power. Within the fuller of the blade, was an etched inscription that read, “The LORD is my shield; the Lord is my sword; none shall stop me.”

Across the sand pit, I always faced an adversary in black. I think this person represented opposition and loathing. As I wrote, I envisioned the two of us in conflict as only master swordsmen can be; swords clanging; fists punching; parries and lunges; shield blocks and counter moves; swift strikes and flashy jabs. Sometimes, I lost and had to retreat. In the real world, this usually resulted in writer’s block. But, most of the time, I defeated my opponent and went on to write something to be proud of.

My closet allowed me to write many an inspirational short story, positive article, song lyrics, and even a poem, but I was never able to pull a novel from that closet. It’s like the closet was only built for short hand-to-hand combat; not an epic battle. I know how that translates into my writing, personally: the elusive novel. I haven’t been able to write one yet. But recently, something has changed within me. I think God downloaded and upgrade for my closet. I’m now working on patch 2.0.

I see myself standing on top of a grassy, mountainous peak overlooking a huge army far below. Overhead, the day is crisp like early spring in the woods. Blue skies and a radiant sun shine down on me.

Instead of leather, I’m clothed in silver living-steel body armor, resembling a one-piece suit, from my feet to my neck. Its form fit is feather light against my skin, but appears to add 20 pounds of muscular bulk to my small frame. There are no discernable seams in the suit: no belt or gloves; no boots or removable apparel. There are no obscene body dimensions outlined.

The armor, though smooth and shiny in appearance, is made up of thousands of tiny interwoven steel scales that seem to breathe and move in unison with my every movement. Even though the suit moves freely, its exterior reflective surface is as hard as any tempered metal known to man. Blades cannot penetrate. Fire will not burn through. Water is repelled.

In my hands, I wield an exquisitely crafted two-hand sword. It closely resembles the small short sword I once held. The same inscription adorns the fuller of the double-edge blade. The hilt is crafted of white pearl. The cross-guard shaped like a cross. Not in use, the sword instinctively attaches to the back of my suit, magnetically.

This closet is a battlefield built for war. The landscape is vast and the enemy is many. This is the type of closet where novels are written, I think. I have yet to take to the battlefield below, but I feel the anticipation of war rising within my heart. Fear is not an option because the conflict is imminent.

It’s only a matter of time before I attempt a great body of written work. For so long, I’ve convinced myself that I don’t have a novel in me. That’s simply a lie from the pit of hell. The more I realize that truth, the tighter my grip clenches the sword. The more I tell myself, “I’m going to write something great,” the deeper my treads dig into the grassy peak. I set my sights on the perfect landing spot below and I’m poised to jump. I’m ready…